Don't panic! Just as with people, healthy cats can suffer an “upset stomach” from time-to-time. We may not know the cause, and it doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to the vet is in order. After all, we don’t always run to the doctor immediately if we or one of our children has a bout of diarrhea. The key is to observe your cat’s behavior both in and out of the litter box. This is at the heart of the distinction between heading to the vet now and taking steps at home to help your kitty get over this quickly.
Where do I start?
When do I take care of this at home?
How do I know if I need to take my cat to see the vet?
Put the pumpkin away. Don’t reach for the rice. Head to a health food store, vitamin shop, Whole Foods, pharmacy or chemist and purchase a probiotic called Saccharomyces boulardii, “S boulardii.” It’s OK – even better – if it has L acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, or other bacterial strains of probiotic in it. It is usually sold without other probiotics as 5 billion CFU or 250mg capsules. This is perfect. We’ll tell you how to use it.
Pick up some chicken breast (if kitty has a chicken sensitivity or allergy, buy turkey breast or pork loin instead). Check the sodium level to make sure the meat isn’t “enhanced” (soaked in a salt solution). If the meat has less than 100mg of sodium per 4oz serving, it is safe to feed your cat. (This is typically a problem only in the U.S.). We’ll explain how to use this after we discuss when it is safe to care for kitty at home and when you need to get your cat to the vet.
First, let’s talk about poop.
Acute Diarrhea vs. Chronic Diarrhea vs. Soft Stools
Acute diarrhea is the abrupt onset of frequent loose or watery stools, more often than normal. Think stomach cramps and lots of trips to the bathroom. It is the body’s method of removing something it wants to be rid of. The most common causes are medicines, a sudden food change, eating something they shouldn’t have, eating too much, a virus, parasites, vaccinations, and stress and/or anxiety. It comes on and lasts for one to three days on average. Acute diarrhea is usually a large bowel problem, and kitty goes to the litter box frequently but may not pass much stool at each visit. There may be fresh blood or mucous in the stool.
Chronic diarrhea is usually either a symptom of a medical condition, or due to an irritant to which kitty is constantly or frequently exposed. Poor quality food, grains, poor quality fats, too much fat, food allergies/sensitivities, untreated parasites, gut dysbiosis, inflammatory bowel disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, hyperthyroid, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), liver or kidney disease, etc. are often at the root of chronic diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea does not come-and-go (though if your cat has frequent recurring bouts of soft stool or watery stool, that may be an indication of an underlying problem). Chronic diarrhea is usually associated with the small intestine, where poop volume is normal to more-than-usual, and frequency is normal to slightly increased. There is not usually mucous in the poop.
Soft stool is not diarrhea. We may never know what caused it, but it is not at all unusual for a cat, on occasion, to have a bowel movement that isn’t normal. The primary difference is kitty is not in the box frequently. It’s just a “not normal” stool texture/consistency being passed when your cat goes to the bathroom. It often only lasts for one or two bowel movements, unless a food change has caused it.
Extremely watery stool with straining can be an indication of impacted feces or some type of obstruction in the bowel that only liquid can get around. The straining may cause vomiting. If the problem is due to impacted feces, the issue is actually constipation and the condition is called obstipation. Whatever the cause of the obstruction, a vet visit is required. X-rays are needed to rule obstruction (whether an ingested foreign object, a stuck hairball, or a growth in the intestines) in-or-out, and if the problem is impacted feces, kitty most likely needs an enema.
What about Mucus and Blood?
Seeing blood in or on your cat’s stool is distressing for anyone. But fresh blood and/or mucous due to irritation is not unusual. Mucus has a jelly-like quality and its function is to coat and protect our gastrointestinal tract from mouth to … the other end. Mucus coats the lining, providing lubrication and protection to the underlying tissues. An immune response can cause inflammation, and the body produces excess mucus to help protect and heal. Lining disruption due to inflammation can also, at times, lead to little burst vessels that cause some fresh blood to be present in or on stool. Slippery elm bark powder should be used when there is blood/and or mucus in the stool. See below for instructions.
Do I Need to Run to the Vet?
That is based on the age, prior health status, and behavior of your pet. Diarrhea in the young, the old, and those whose health is already compromised are at high risk for experiencing complications from diarrhea. Diarrhea can quickly cause dehydration for these cats, putting them in serious danger. Do not attempt to care for them at home without vet guidance.
If you have an adult cat otherwise in good health (or with known chronic illness under management), you may just need to take a few steps to help the diarrhea resolve in a few days or less.
In ANY cat, head to the vet if:
Your kitty’s eating and behavior patterns are very important. If your cat has diarrhea or soft stool, even if there is a little blood or mucus present, but your cat is otherwise behaving basically normally (though maybe her appetite is a little off), this isn’t an emergency and you can take steps to manage the problem at home. Lethargy or weakness should be considered an emergency.
The Importance of Proper Hydration
Dehydration is the condition diarrhea can cause that makes it potentially life threatening. To check for dehydration, gently pull up on the skin at the back of the neck between the shoulder blades. When released after “tenting” that loose skin a bit, it should pop back into place quickly. If the skin droops back into place slowly, kitty is dehydrated and you should get to the vet quickly, as severe dehydration can be life-threatening.
To prevent dehydration:
Managing the Diarrhea
First, remove ALL regular food and feed a bland diet. Do NOT feed your kitty her normal food. With the diarrhea, the food is just rushing through her not providing much in the way of nutrition anyway. The bland diet removes any possible dietary sources of upset, and is very easy for your cat to digest. Use the (unenhanced) chicken or turkey breast or pork loin (trimmed of excess fat) to make a bland, simple, low-fat food. Poach the meat in enough water to cook the meat and make a bit of broth. When cooked, either shred the meat, cut or chop it finely, or put it in a food processor or blender with the water used to poach it.
Do not include rice. Many vets recommend a “bland diet” of chicken and rice. Rice can ferment in the GI tract, create gas, and make the diarrhea worse.
No Pumpkin? No. While fiber can slow down transit time which helps kitty obtain nutrition and hydration in the face of diarrhea, slippery elm bark powder is a better choice, discussed below.
Feed this plain bland food to your pet in small amounts, 4 to 8 times a day, depending on how much they’ll eat at a time. You can feed this unbalanced, plain food for the few days it should take the diarrhea to subside/resolve.
In addition to the bland diet of just poached meat and broth, the next, most important – in fact, critical – aspect of addressing your kitty’s diarrhea is giving your kitty one of the most studied probiotics in the world, Saccharomyces boulardii.
The Probiotic – S boulardii
S boulardii, a yeast (in fact, a close cousin to brewer’s yeast with vastly different properties) is a time-tested and proven probiotic strain with many supporting studies including clinical trials indicating its efficacy in the treatment of intestinal infections, the maintenance of inflammatory bowel disease, and the resolution of diarrhea from just about any cause. It is indicated for use with “Travelers Diarrhea,” where e coli, shigella and salmonella account for about 80% of acute diarrhea. (Zanello 2009). It is safe for use in children – and pets. Research published in the past decade has explored and discovered its direct anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulatory activities as well. Please see Saccharomyces Boulardii: Scientific Studies in GI Disease.
The many studies of S boulardii indicate it is a very effective anti-diarrheal, and its use “decreases significantly the duration and frequency of diarrhea.” (Zanello 2009). It has been used in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant clostridium difficile infections in cats at U.C. Davis. Clearly the benefits of S boulardii in humans applies equally to cats. This should come as no surprise, as one of the lead researchers in the cat microbiome, Dr. Jan Suchodolski of Texas A&M, indicates “pet specific” probiotics are unnecessary – in fact, the use of researched strains is important as probiotics confer benefit across mammalian species.
How does it work? Very simply, S boulardii is not digested or metabolized: it is not absorbed in the gut. It does not act systemically. S boulardii acts locally in the lumen of the intestines. During its passage through the intestines, it mimics the physiological effects of the digestive flora, stimulating healthy immune response, reducing inflammation, and promoting restoration and growth of healthy normal gut flora. “During the intestinal transit, S boulardii interacts with resident microflora and intestinal mucosa. Moreover, experimental studies displayed that S boulardii induces a protection against enteric pathogens, modulates the host immune response, decreases inflammation and hydroelectrolytic secretions, inhibits bacterial toxins, and enhances trophic factors such as brush border membrane enzymes and nutrient transporters.” (Zanello 2009).
Thus S boulardii, unlike bacterial probiotics, does not colonize the gut. With dosages discussed in published studies, S boulardii takes about three days to achieve “steady-state” concentrations. When administration is stopped, the yeast is cleared from the colon in about 36 hours. Thus the use discussed here for “emergency treatment” of diarrhea is designed to literally flush the system with S boulardii, enabling it to get to work faster than with twice-a-day dosing.
“Emergency Stop Diarrhea” S boulardii Administration for Cats with Severe Diarrhea
Probiotics are typically sold in measures of “CFU.” CFU = colony forming units. S boulardii is the exception, it is often sold in mg. Note that 250mg of S boulardii is the same dose as 5 billion CFU.
Traditional dosing for therapeutic treatment of diarrhea in adult cats as provided by U.C. Davis is one-half of a 250mg capsule (5 billion CFU) given twice daily. Treatment for kittens is half of the adult dose. It can be given with food; it does not have to be. This is usually sufficient for loose stools of normal frequency. For the “emergency stop diarrhea” approach, we find more frequent dosing of smaller amounts of the probiotic, providing a higher total CFU the first day or two, resolves diarrhea much more quickly.
For adult cats (defined here as 9 months of age and older):
Give one-quarter of the 250mg / 5 billion CFU capsule every two hours or so. Many cats accept it when mixed into finely ground poached chicken breast / turkey breast / pork loin or meat-only baby food. (Beech Nut, Goya, and Gerber list “meat” and broth or gravy as ingredients. These are fine, they are referring to the water used to cook the meat, and they contain no spices). If your cat does not like the taste of the probiotic, you can syringe after mixing with water. If you are not experienced syringing liquids into your cat, you can use empty #3 gel capsules. Simply fill 10 to 20 of these by transferring the S boulardii from the larger capsules into the smaller ones. These are a size easy to pill your cat. Pill your cat with one #3 capsule filled with S boulardii every two hours or so. For pilling instructions, see How to Pill (Your Cat).
This frequent dosing method usually stops diarrhea within 24 – 48 hours, other than when diarrhea is caused by another disease that requires treatment (low B12, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, hyperthyroidism, as examples). This “loading dose” can be continued for longer if necessary, up to three to four days – but if you do not see substantial improvement in the diarrhea on day 3, it is best to follow-up with your veterinarian. It is NOT necessary to use this approach, it can be given at “therapeutic” doses as discussed above twice a day (and doubled if you see improvement in stool but diarrhea or soft cow patty stools have not resolved).
When the diarrhea has substantially resolved with use of the emergency stop treatment protocol, begin use of S. boulardii at the therapeutic dose level (2.5 billion CFU twice daily) and continue for at least one week. If stools soften, resume use of S. boulardii at the therapeutic dose as needed. Given its role in improving performance of bacterial probiotics and its anti-inflammatory properties, the use of S boulardii at maintenance levels (anywhere from 500 million CFU to a total of 2.5 billion CFU daily) can be continued indefinitely along with a bacterial probiotic. It confers many health and GI protective benefits, and we use it along with bacterial strains in all of our cats, all the time.
For kittens under nine months old, follow the same instructions as for adults, just use half the amount.
Please Note: If diarrhea becomes worse with S boulardii administration, stop use immediately. There can be several reasons for this reaction, however. We have seen cats do poorly with a brand of S boulardii that contains lactose, and switching to a brand like Jarrow without it, the product works quite well. This is most common. We have also seen what is most likely bacterial die-off with the S boulardii. Again, stop administration for 24 hours, and reintroduce it (while continuing to feed the bland diet) slowly. Do not follow the "emergency stop diarrhea" instructions. Use it just twice a day, but at 1/4 of the recommended amount the first day, and 1/2 the recommended amount the second day if kitty did not react to the lower dose. If you do not begin to see improvement even with this slower method of introduction, stop the S boulardii, best to see the vet.
Brands of S boulardii:
In the U.S. Jarrow is one of the most widely available. It is combined with MOS (mannanoligosaccharides) which improve its efficacy. Florastor is available in many large chain stores, but it contains lactose, which may exacerbate diarrhea in some cats due to the common lactose intolerance.
Walmart has a store brand very similar to Florastor, called Equate but without the lactose. Renew Life, carried by most Whole Foods stores, has two S boulardii products, one with larch arabinogalactan. Buy the one WITHOUT this ingredient. There are many brands of S boulardii available online: anything with just plan S boulardii in capsules of 3 billion CFU to 5 billion CFU will do.
You can click on the pictures to purchase the probiotics from amazon U.S.
In the U.K. and some other countries in Europe, Bioglan is widely available. This contains S boulardii and several bacterial probiotics. The capsules contain 2.5 billion CFU of S boulardii. If you are using Bioglan, be aware that you need to provide twice the dose if following instructions for giving 5 billion CFU capsules.
In Australia, Candex is the name of the S boulardii product widely available. This contains lactose.
Even if you need to see your vet, and your cat is put on antibiotics, S boulardii is a wonderful probiotic to administer to your cat as it also helps prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea. As yeast, not a bacteria, antibiotics do not kill it, and it remains effective.
Slippery Elm Bark Powder (“SEB”)
While the S boulardii alone will likely resolve the diarrhea in your cat, if kitty is in discomfort, if there is some blood and/or mucus in the stool, or if kitty is nauseous, slippery elm should be given to your kitty along with the plain diet and S boulardii. The can be given concurrently. SEB both manages nausea and is very soothing and healing to the entire GI tract. This also details why we prefer using slippery elm bark powder over pumpkin when managing diarrhea in our cats.
As discussed at Dr. Jean Hofve’s LittleBigCat and in a 2011 review piece, Appalachian Plant Monographs: Ulmus rubra, slippery elm bark powder contains many healing properties:
In fact, slippery elm doesn’t just help restore normal intestinal function, it reduces inflammation, controls nausea, heals ulcers and gastric lesions, acts as a prebiotic to help manage gut dysbiosis, and it triggers stimulation of nerve endings in the GI tract, which promotes increased mucus secretion to protect and heal the underlying tissues. It lubricates, soothes, and heals, making kitty feel better.
Slippery elm bark powder directions: mix one-quarter teaspoon of loose powder with one-half teaspoon water. Stir until all the powder is mixed with the water. Let it sit for a minute or so. You will see it becomes thick and gelatinous. You can add this to kitty’s plain meat and broth if she’s eating when you are using it to treat diarrhea. If she’s a bit nauseous or inappetent, give it to her about half an hour before a meal, just swipe a little bit at a time into her mouth with your finger (allow her to swallow before swiping in a bit more to get it all (or most of it) into her). You can also add a bit more water as necessary in order to use a food syringe to gently assist-feed your kitty the slippery elm bark/water mixture. During a bout of diarrhea, you can use this mixture three times a day.
Please note, the gelatinous mixture can slow the absorption of any drugs your kitty may be taking. Please separate administration of slippery elm bark powder and any medications by two hours.
Most cats will experience the infrequent bout of diarrhea, often with no identified cause. This is not unusual, and can usually be treated at home. Because the antibiotic most often prescribed for general “diarrhea” in cats (Flagyl, generic metronidazole) is toxic to their systems, using the bland diet, Saccharomyces boulardii (and if you feel a fiber is needed, or if there is some blood and/or mucus present in the diarrhea or kitty is nauseous, then also including slippery elm bark powder) is a gentle, safe, non-toxic, yet generally very effective approach. Given its roles in managing GI inflammation and immune modulation, we encourage you to give S boulardii to your cat along with an L acidophilus- based bacterial probiotic to help maintain a healthy GI tract on a daily basis. At Food Fur Life, we consider daily probiotic administration an important aspect of cat health. And if you are not feeding your cat fresh, minimally processed food, please read up on the benefits, and consider transitioning your kitty to homemade food. Of course, making your own with EZcomplete fur Cats is … easy!
I don’t know about you, but our very first cat adopted us. She let us think we chose to feed her, that skinny, matted stray raiding the garbage. And it was a triumph when after months Booger allowed us to groom her. Of course we let her in when she decided our home was hers! ...Of course, we also let her back out when the thunderstorm passed. She insisted. Loudly.
Given the first records of the domestication of cats dates back to when humans were first settling down to farm, it’s easy to imagine both human and cat enjoying the benefits of proximity, isn’t it? They’re magical, entertaining creatures, cats are. And they protected the farmers’ grain stores from rodents. It was a win-win! We’ve been companions ever since. Cats traveled the globe with us. Literally, as it turns out.
It came as quite the surprise when a research team led by geneticist Carlos Driscoll of the National Cancer Institute and scientists at the University of Oxford in England decided to trace the origin of domestic cats – and found that every single one of the 979 cats included in the project from around the world were “virtually indistinguishable” from the African Wildcat at the genetic level. That’s right, that purring, kneading bundle of soft, silky fur, born under different circumstances, could be just as at home stalking prey on the great plains of South Africa.
Many assume the influence of living among humans would have had an impact on what cats have the ability to eat and use for sources of energy and nutrition, as appears to the be case for dogs. Nope. Not so. Not at all. Despite their proximity to humans for at least 10,000 years, cats retain their unique anatomic, physiologic, metabolic, and behavioral adaptations consistent with eating a strictly carnivorous diet. That is to say that cats, to this very day, remain obligate carnivores. By their genetic makeup, cats must eat the tissue of other animals in order to thrive.
Our kitties delight us with their playful antics well into old age. And as we’ve brought our cats indoors full-time, we find that to keep them happy and fit, we have to engage them in interactive play. What we are witnessing is their prey drive. That seemingly kitten-like, playful behavior we enjoy from birth to death in our furry friends is unique to cats: their prey drive is not dependent on hunger. They are so hard-wired to hunt and engage prey, they don’t need to be hungry to “play.”
In fact, cats are such highly specialized hunters it is absolutely critical to their long term health that we understand cats are a metabolically inflexible carnivore. What does that mean? Well let’s find out.
Since moving indoors full-time and becoming completely dependent on us for food, what has happened?
We need convenient food with our busy lifestyles. And most of us do not intuitively understand what cats need – they seem like little aliens to us. They certainly did to me. We ask our vets. And many of our vets tell us that for dental health, cats need kibble, that to mimic their "natural" pattern of eating many small meals (being hunters of small mammals), we should leave the food out. We didn't know any better, and we trusted our vet to know what’s best for Booger. Or we free-feed kibble to our kitties, because that’s what and how our parents fed our cats when we were growing up. So 80% of us go to the store and buy a bag of kibble, come home, and pour it into a dish we keep full for Boots, and Socks, and Tigger.
…except cats evolved eating moisture-rich food in the desert. Kibble has virtually no moisture – and cats do not have a thirst-drive that keeps them properly hydrated. This is a clash of momentous impact: The number one reason for a vet visit by cats is bladder or urinary tract problems – usually crystals and life-taking or life-threatening urinary tract blockages –problems that need not exist if we feed a moisture-rich, fresh meat-based diet. Cats, not designed to use all those carbs, grains, or starches in their food, not designed to derive needed protein from non-meat-based sources, experience kidney disease at a rate of seven times more than dogs.
And our kibble fed cats, chronically dehydrated, die most frequently from kidney disease, the number one cause of death in cats over the age of five.
Yet in the face of this, many of our vets STILL tell us our cats need to eat some kibble for dental health. But 85% of cats over the age of three years have dental disease. What the…. ????? How can they not notice this dichotomy?
So we put down that bowl of kibble for kitty to “graze.” Except cats aren’t herbivores. Cats shouldn’t graze. Allowing cats to graze has resulted in a problem of “epidemic proportions." 58% of our cats are either overweight or obese – an increase of 90% over the past five years.
So now we have fat cats. And that means that 67% of our cats have arthritis.
And being fat increases the risk of diabetes by 300% - 500% - so it’s shouldn’t be surprising that the incidence of diabetes in our cats has DOUBLED in the past five years.
In fact, THREE of the top 10 reasons for vet visits by cats in the past several years are related to digestion. Our cats suffer chronic vomiting, diarrhea, and now full-blown Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Are you crying yet? At Food Fur Life, we are. What are we doing to our cats? How has this happened?
Pet food marketing and lack of industry regulation or real oversight. As outlined above, the problems seem as if they are related to only kibble. But no, the problems are not limited to just kibble. Moisture-depleted, ultra-processed crunchy food made from rendered ingredients is certainly more problematic than canned or pouched cat food. Species-inappropriate ingredients are most certainly a culprit: forcing our cats to eat what nature didn't build them to use as a source of nutrition or energy clearly has a hand in our cats' health problems. But the issues extend far beyond processing and non-meat-based ingredients in our cats' food. That said, issues with ingredient quality (despite the marketing that would have us believe otherwise even in expensive foods) and the use of additives and diseased animals (even in canned food) with most canned and kibble commercial cat foods are beyond the scope of this post. The problems are staggering and seem almost unbelievable when we first start learning about them. Ann Martin describes them in her book, Foods Pets Die For: Shocking Facts about Pet Food. Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, former Director of Technical Affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, co-authored the book Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Pet Food. And Carolina and I got our first introduction to the problems in the pet food industry with a paper written by a Harvard Law student, “Deconstructing the Regulatory Façade: Why Confused Consumers Feed their Pets Ring Dings and Krispy Kremes.”
Bottom line? The health problems sooooo many of our pets are experiencing are DIRECTLY related to the diet we feed them. And we can change that.
Fresh Food for Our Cats: It’s Just Common Sense!
We have been told that feeding a fresh meat-based diet to our cats is dangerous. Of course, many veterinarians do support the idea of feeding our cats a species-appropriate, fresh meat-based diet – in theory. Seeing the impact of improperly made homemade diets, many vets are fearful of recommending it, and understandably so. But with the advent of commercially available balanced raw foods for cats, and with a supplement like EZcomplete fur Cats that makes it so easy to provide complete and balanced homemade food – what’s stopping us?
Think of a fresh food diet for our cats like this. As the title to this section says, it just takes a bit of common sense.
How old is your cat? Three years? Five? Seven? Nine? Eleven?
At three years old, your cat is the equivalent of 28 human years.
At five, your kitty is the equivalent of 36;
At seven, your cat is the equivalent of 44;
At nine, that is an equivalent of 52;
At 11, your kitty is the equivalent of 60 human years.
Even if you don’t eat the healthiest diet, can you imagine never – never, ever – having eaten an apple? An orange? A salad? for 28 years or 36 years or 44 years or 52 years - or for 60 years?
That's what we are doing to our cats by never, ever feeding them any fresh meat (which is not a balanced diet) EVER. And I'm not talking about the slice of deli ham that Bella stole, or the bit of barbequed steak that dad slipped to Muffin. I mean fresh, raw meat. A slice of chicken breast. A bite of chicken liver. Yeah - it takes more work than that to make a balanced diet. But don't you feed your kitty treats? We don't worry those are going to cause their diet to become unbalanced. There's no reason not to slice off a bite of chicken breast before you season it and bake it, the next time you're cooking chicken for dinner, and offer that to Smokey as a treat instead that stuff in a bag or bottle.
Got another one for you. Pretend you’re an astronaut, and have been on the space station for nine months. All you’ve eaten is food squished out of a packet. When you land, what are you craving? Dry cereal? Canned stew? Probably not.
Our doctors, our government tell us that we need to eat fresh food. We need 2-4 servings of fresh fruit per day. We are advised to eat 3-5 servings of fresh vegetables each day. And yet we expect our cats, designed to derive ALL of their needed nutrition from ONLY small animals, to thrive on the most highly processed food there is, full of carbohydrates. And even if “real meat” is advertised as the number one ingredient in that food, the moisture was sucked out of it before it gets to your cat. Even many canned foods highlight their inclusion of "healthy" peas and carrots, cranberries or blueberries, or that they include corn gluten meal to reduce their urine pH. Ummmm... did we forget? Cats aren’t out there eating the grain stores of farmers. They eat the mice that eat the grain. Cats aren’t out there raiding the vegetable garden. They eat the rabbits that raid our gardens. Cats aren't out there snacking on blueberries. They eat the birds that eat the berries.
Cats aren’t out there roasting their mice, either. In fact, a 2008 review of research on pancreatitis in cats by Texas A&M noted a study where post-mortem biopsy of 115 cats (both sick and healthy cats) discovered findings consistent with chronic pancreatitis in 67% of the cats – including 45% of “apparently healthy” cats. Please read that again. Is your mind blown? If not, read it one more time, please.
Dr. Jean Hofve, in her article on the importance of enzymes, published in IVC Journal, shares why that may be. Cooking food kills the naturally occurring enzymes that aid digestion. Many of our cats may literally be suffering from eating cooked, highly processed foods, as pancreatitis, in 2015, made the Top 10 list of health insurance claims.
What Happens When We Feed Our Cats A Balanced Raw Food Diet?
So what happens when we feed our cats a diet modeled on the food they are meant to eat? When we employ a little common sense, and realize that if we thrive on fresh, whole foods, our cats will also thrive on their equivalent – a fresh, properly balanced, animal tissue-based diet?
Raw feeders also report less shedding, behavior changes (aren’t you less grumpy when you eat fresh foods vs when you’ve been on a carb or sugar binge?), more energy (yes, you will have to play with your cats more!), a cessation of itching and overgrooming – and even improvements in asthma.
Mother Nature Knows What Cats Need
WHY do we think we need to “improve” upon the diet cats are born to eat? WHY do we need studies that show us cats *can* eat grains, starches, pulses, and legumes? That cats *can* eat plant-based proteins or derive some energy from carbs SHOULD be moot. If we put diesel oil into our gas-powered cars, should we expect them to run properly?
No, feeding a balanced raw diet doesn’t cure everything. But when we get over our fears and feed our cats a balanced diet featuring food their bodies NEED, we rapidly see the changes. Yes, rapidly. Often it seems like magic. Of course, the longer the problem has occurred, the more time it can take to resolve. Sometimes there is significant damage. Fortunately, for many cats like Carolina's Bugsy, all they need is raw food. Bugsy had 14 months of diarrhea (despite following veterinary advice and protocols), and it immediately cleared up after eating his first meal of 100% raw food. That journey is recorded here.
Problems we took for granted as being “that’s just my cat” go away. Yes, it is a lifestyle change. To continue to reap the benefits for the furry members of our family, we need to continue to feed them like the cats they are. And we SEE the difference between our cats just surviving – and our cats truly thriving.
Of course, at Food Fur Life, we help make feeding your cat a complete & balanced, healthy, fresh, raw meat-based diet quick, easy and convenient. Buy meat. Add supplement and water. Feed Cat. It really couldn't be easier than with EZcomplete fur Cats.
...and these are happy tears. No more pancreatitis!
Why are our cats in so much gastric distress?
According to VPI Insurance, digestive issues in cats (both vomiting and diarrhea) are consistently ranked as one of the top reasons for a vet visit. Inflammatory Bowel Disease joined them on the list of top 10 reasons for a vet visit each the past two years. This makes three of the top 10 reasons for vet visits related to GI problems in our cats.
According to Dr. Gary Norsworthy, who led a study of chronic vomiting in cats, it is so frequent (present in 73% of cats with small bowel disease), many veterinarians and cat owners simply write-it off to
What the heck is going on?
When we have a young child, we would never accept from a doctor that chronic vomiting is because our child is "just a puker." We would never accept that chronic diarrhea is "just how some kids are."
What is Feline IBD?
Let’s start with what Feline IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) is. Like that in humans, IBD is a group of diseases involving mild- to severe gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation, and it can lead to lymphoma. This inflammation has been definitively linked to gut dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance in the GI tract). Technically an autoimmune disease, IBD was thought to have a genetic component, but recent research has discovered that the process that triggers IBD is actually transmissible.
GI motility problems (vomiting, diarrhea, constipation) can both cause and be exacerbated by a bacterial imbalance. In IBD, that imbalance has caused inflammation that often impacts nutrient absorption (which is why seeming unexplained weight loss can occur, and why B12 and folate blood serum levels are part of the diagnostic process). In IBD, the symptoms that present are related to where in the GI tract the inflammation is located. Symptoms can come and go, often in cycles of frequent vomiting or a period of diarrhea – which is why the symptoms so often go improperly diagnosed.
Treatment and Management of IBD: Traditional IBD Management Does Not Address the Underlying Cause
The typical approach is for vets to have pet parents use “prescription” diets for sensitive stomachs / high fiber diets for hairballs / hydrolyzed “hypoallergenic” diets, or “limited ingredient” diets and to prescribe goop for hairballs, antacids for stomach upset, and/or anti-emetics (metoclopramide [Reglan], maropitant [Cerenia], ondansetron [Zofran]) to stop the vomiting and nausea; steroids to control inflammation; and Flagyl (metronadizole) to control diarrhea. As Dr. Norsworthy says, “often there is improvement in clinical signs, but rarely are they completely relieved. In addition, the improvement often diminishes over time.”
Unfortunately, this traditional treatment of Feline IBD does not address the underlying cause, it treats the symptoms. Not surprisingly, it has been shown that diet is directly related to the gut microbiome in humans: this holds true for cats, too. Healing of the GI tract can only begin by recognizing our cats as the obligate carnivores they are. Feeding them species-appropriate food that supports their proper intestinal pH and bacterial populations is imperative to long term healing.
Diet is the Foundation of Health: this is critical for IBD in cats
While it is incorrect to say that a raw diet “cures” Feline IBD, feeding cats the high quality, human grade, fresh meat-and-organ based diet their digestive systems are designed to metabolize enables those systems to return to physiological balance - and when combined with appropriate human grade probiotics to restore healthy intestinal bacteria that has been damaged by many factors apart from diet (including antibiotics, dewormers, vaccinations, stress, etc.) many cats experience healing of the inflammation caused or aggravated by commercial (including "prescription") diets and the alteration in their microbiome.
The evidence is only anecdotal at this point, but far too many cats transitioned to a raw diet see their symptoms of IBD (whether vomiting or diarrhea) clear up almost overnight. Notably, the All Feline Hospital says they “started trying commercial raw food diets with amazing results” (in cats with IBD). They further state
“We have had cats with confirmed by biopsy IBD that had severe IBD and significant symptoms that had to be on very high doses of steroids just to have some quality of life. Many of these cats had a complete reversal of signs and symptoms by going to an exclusively raw food diet, and were able to either come off of all medications, or at the very least, drastically reduce their medications.” (Bold, our emphasis)
Food processing, the use of thickeners, high temperatures, species-inappropriate foods containing even medium amounts of carbs and/or starches), dry vs wet foods vs raw, protein content – all of these things impact feline gut microflora and thus motility and inflammation in our cats. This means that to best help our kitties heal, we need to feed them the food they were meant to eat: a diet based on fresh, raw, high protein food. (Raw is preferable to cooked, but cook it if you are not comfortable feeding raw: fresh, unprocessed, truly human grade meat and organs – a food with no unnecessary additives – is still better than highly processed food, no matter the perception of quality).
Of course, with EZcomplete fur Cats, it is – well – really easy to feed fresh homemade food – and IBD cats are thriving on it.
For more information on the treatment and management of IBD in cats, please visit the website Raw Feeding for IBD Cats.
This blog post has been added to the growing collection of educational articles provided by Food Fur Life, LLC Raw Feeding and IBD in Cats
For those concerned about chicken allergies, it's important to note that the body sees chicken muscle meat and egg yolk as two different proteins. A chicken allergy does not mean your kitty is also allergic to egg yolk!
As discussed in our article Hairballs: How Best to Manage Them, often the butt of jokes, hairballs are a sign the stomach of our kitties is not emptying properly. This is a problem with motility, a problem that can lead to or be a symptom of inflammatory bowel disease and/or small cell intestinal cancer. Hairballs are no laughing matter.
Proper management of hairballs involves
In that article, we outline why egg yolk and egg yolk lecithin are the first, best methods for managing hairballs in our cats when help is needed. Since writing that article, however, we’ve found that some kitties do not enjoy the additional raw yolk (Please note, food made with EZcomplete fur Cats already contains egg yolk - and most raw or homemade diets also already contain egg yolk, which provides many essential nutrients), and some IBD cats sensitive to fats in the diet cannot tolerate as much egg yolk lecithin as they actually need to resolve hairballs. Food Fur Life co-founder, Carolina, discovered that using powdered egg yolk instead of additional fresh egg yolk made it not only enjoyable for her cats to eat – she no longer needed to give them egg yolk lecithin! (And Carolina has four long-haired rescue kitties, two with IBD).
Hairballs, not surprisingly, are a frequent topic of discussion in the Raw Feeding for IBD Cats Facebook group. And we’re finding this approach is helping other cats as well. Group member Eric Swanson decided to make his own homemade powdered, dried egg yolk – and it was both a success and a hit with the cats!
How much dried, powdered egg yolk to feed? START SMALL or your cat may experience loose stool or diarrhea. As with all new supplements, it is always best to start with a much smaller amount than you intend to use: make sure your cat does not react to the new addition. Start with a pinch of dried powdered yolk on one meal. Day two, try a big pinch. Day three, use 1/8th teaspoon every-other-day, and work up slowly from there. You can work up to as much as one-quarter yolk a day if needed (in addition to what is provided by the diet), but as always, it is best to use the minimum amount necessary to “get the job done.” Egg yolk in the diet provides many health benefits apart from aiding in hairball management (the egg is a powerhouse of nutrition!) and this amount of egg yolk will not throw the diet out of balance no matter what food you feed. For those with cats with Chronic Kidney Disease, one large egg yolk (which, at 1/4 yolk equivalent a day results in the addition of one yolk every four days) contains the same amount of phosphorus as one ounce of muscle meat. This should not be enough to need to adjust the phosphorus binder you are using if you're using one, but you may want to discuss this with your vet.
Recipe / Instructions for Making Homemade Dried, Powdered Egg Yolk
Courtesy of Eric Swanson. Photos preparing dried yolk, also thanks to Eric!
Use the highest quality eggs you can. Eggs from organically fed, pastured chickens is obviously ideal, but not necessary.
Eric started with four egg yolks. This recipe works for as many as you care to make.
1) Hard boil the eggs. (Gently lower eggs into boiling water, and boil on medium heat for 12 minutes)
2) When done, run the hard boiled eggs under cold water.
3) When cool, peel the eggshell. (If you make your own eggshell as a calcium source in your cat’s food, save the peeled shells!)
4) Crumble the yolk in a single layer onto a baking pan or into a baking dish. Eric used a Pyrex glass bakeware dish.
5) Bake at 140F (60C) for 10 hours. If the lowest temperature on your oven is 170F (75C), that's fine, use that and check the yolks after 9 hours to see if they appear to be completely dry. You can stir the yolk after 4 or 5 hours, but it isn't necessary.
6) Remove from the oven (leave it on) and powder the yolk in a food processor or blender. If the yolk is completely dry, you're done! If it feels a tad moist, or a bit "tacky," then
7) Put the now powdered yolk back on the baking sheet / baking dish.
8) Cook the now powdered yolk for up to another two hours so it dries completely.
Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator, or a cool, dark place.
Four large fresh egg yolks yielded approximately 11.5 teaspoons of powdered yolk (approximately four tablespoons). In this example, one tablespoon of dried yolk powder is the (approximate) equivalent of one large fresh egg yolk. Depending on how fine your processor makes the powder, you may have different results, so it is best you measure the amount of final dried yolk powder to determine how much powder equates to one fresh egg yolk.
We recommend feeding up to one-quarter yolk per day, though this amount may not be necessary for all cats. If hairballs do not resolve at that amount, other steps should be taken rather than feeding more powdered egg yolk.
You can, of course, purchase commercially prepared powdered, dried egg yolk (not whole egg). Please check for flow agents, many dried powdered egg yolks use them, and it is better to avoid them if possible. Also make sure you know what the fresh yolk equivalent is of the powder you purchase so you can feed the correct amount to your cat, as the fresh yolk equivalent of commercial powders ranges from one teaspoon to one or two tablespoons.
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